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One in five believe women can't reach senior management

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O2’s Women in Leadership campaign results

Almost one in five women (17%) believe it is impossible for a woman to reach senior management roles, according to a poll conducted by O2.

The survey, part of O2’s Women in Leadership campaign, also found that nearly half (48%) of women working in management or senior management roles believe all the decision makers in their company are male.

Despite this, almost three in 10 (28%) respondents said they dream of being the CEO, and 35% want to be on the board of an organisation.

The report also investigated how women look back on their achievements. When asked what factor had most contributed to their success ‘luck’ was the most popular response, chosen by 35%. Only 27% attributed it to good quality training, and just 13% said it was because the organisations they work for encourage progression and promotion.

Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser and head of leadership activity for the CIPD, told HR magazine that these findings highlight issues surrounding personal attitudes and confidence in female managers. “Women don’t value their talents highly enough,” she said.

“What sometimes happens is women are told to behave like men to be successful. That’s only part of the solution. The confidence skills and soft skills required for leadership roles should be taught and developed from an earlier age."

She added: “Perhaps unconsciously, we continue to look at leadership from a very male-dominated lens. When we think of a leader we tend to think of someone who is forthcoming and confident, so we try to teach women to be like that. But maybe that’s not what their natural leadership style would be like. We shouldn’t impose any stereotypes on what leadership should be like.”

Lisa Wade, area director of HR, UK and Ireland for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, told HR magazine that women in the workplace should question whether the majority of decision makers are actually male.

“I am proud that 87% of key decision makers in my team are female, so I think it is important that women in the workforce first establish whether the perception of male dominance in decision-making is actually the case,” she said.

“If it is a reality then women have to have the self-belief and confidence in themselves and their own ability to make it a more level playing field, or are they happy to leave it as it is? Only the individual can answer that but progressive organisations can help to address the balance."

She added: “I find it sad to see that ambition and drive is not heavily featured as a measure of achievement. While luck does have a part to play, irrespective of gender, I would hope that long-term success is at least driven in part by a passion to achieve.”